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Between 2020 and 2021, one hundred and ten bills in state legislatures across the United States suggested banning the participation of transgender athletes on sports teams for girls and women. As of July 2021, ten such bills have become state law. This paper tracks the political shift towards targeting transgender athletes. Conservative political interests now seek laws that suture biological determinist arguments to civil rights of bodies. Although narrow binary definitions of sex have long operated in the background as a means for policy implementation under Title IX, Republican lawmakers now aim to reframe sex non-discrimination policies as means of gendered exclusion. The content of proposals reveal the centrality of ideas about bodily immutability, and body politics more generally, in shaping the future of American gender politics. My analysis of bills from 2021 argues that legislative proposals advance a logic of “cisgender supremacy” inhering in political claims about normatively gendered bodies. Political institutions are another site for advancing, enshrining, and normalizing cis-supremacist gender orders, explicitly joining cause with medical authorities as arbiters of gender normativity. Characteristics of bodies and their alleged role in evidencing sex itself have fueled the tactics of anti-transgender activists on the political Right. However, the target of their aims is not mere policy change but a state-sanctioned return to a narrowly cis- and heteropatriarchal gender order.

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The Body Politic: Women's Bodies and Political Conflict



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.